Angel Has Fallen
2 stars
Director: Ric Roman Waugh
Stars: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Nick Nolte
Duration: 121 mins
Class: 15
KRS Releasing Ltd

And here is part three of the ‘Fallen’ trilogy, featuring the exploits of Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) who, in 2013’s Olympus has Fallen, saved the American President after a brutal and destructive terrorist assault on the White House. He saved the President yet again after a brutal and destructive terrorist assault on London in 2016’s cleverly-titled London Has Fallen.

The angel in the title is Banning himself who, being the only survivor of this umpteenth assassination attempt, is accused of having plotted the assassination himself (notwithstanding the actual saving of the President’s life). He escapes arrest and finds himself on the run from the Secret Service, the FBI, and the bad guys themselves who want to make sure he really takes the fall and they can get away with their nefarious plans. 

While Olympus did the job, delivering an enjoyable if routine action film, London was repetitive and humdrum. It is not long into Angel that it becomes abundantly clear that it is, in fact, standards that have fallen, and the people behind the franchise have simply run out of ideas.

Even the most diehard fan of films of this ilk will likely find little to enjoy here. Like its predecessors, the characters are thinly sketched; the plotline is uninspiring, not to say obvious. It is chock-full of violent action scenes, a tone-deaf celebration of American machismo, as Banning bashes and beats his way out of every ludicrous predicament he finds himself in.

Even the most diehard fan of films of this ilk will likely find little to enjoy here

From the opening scenes, which find Banning in the middle of army boot camp, to the never-ending rooftop-set finale, via his improbable escape from chains, handcuffs and a heavily armed escort, it is dull, it is rote and it is a regurgitation of set-pieces we have seen too often before in much better films.

There is little suspense – you know who the bad guy is pretty much from the moment he appears on screen. In trying to make things topical, the underlying plot has a tenuous connection to ‘Russia’, which is not only a tedious throwback to the jingoistic action films of the 1980s but a prime example of the lazy writing and execution that permeates throughout.

Butler has had three films in which to develop the character but Banning remains nothing more than a cypher. He grunts and grimaces his way through the role, proffering little nuance or depth, resulting in a cold, unemotional and completely unengaging performance.

This time round he is presented as suffering the debilitating effects of the stresses of the job while staring old age and retirement in the face – so a visit to a scolding doctor and various shots of him downing pills are supposed to paint picture of a man in physical and mental pain. And yet any semblance of credibility is smothered by his superhuman ability to fight his way out of any situation.

At no point is any attempt made to get under his skin. The American Secret Service is made up of men and women who would step in front of a bullet to save their charges and it would have jacked up the interest considerably had any attempt ever been made to address this.

The other characters fare just as badly. Pretty much every member of the not inconsiderable ensemble made up of Morgan Freeman, Danny Huston, Lance Reddick, Tim Blake Nelson, Jada Pinkett Smith and Piper Perabo are simply going through the motions, the latter two grappling with woefully underwritten roles.

At least Freeman’s character has had some sort of arc over the three films – going from Speaker of the House, to Vice-President, to the President here; and the actor always manages to bring gravitas to proceedings, merely by his presence.

Otherwise, it is only Nick Nolte, as Banning’s gruff and grubby estranged father, who registers and makes the film a tad bearable. Pity his scenes are few and far between.

Kaya Scodelario in Crawl.Kaya Scodelario in Crawl.

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